Monday, December 7, 2009

Australia Travelogue, Part V

Wednesday, Nov 16, Port Douglas: sunny, hot, with a calm wind. I made breakfast tacos and we enjoyed a leisurely time at the table. Susie and I had planned a walk with Jonesy (her Cavalier King Charles spaniel) but ran short of time and off we went to collect her Aunt Wendy and head to the marina to meet Jon, first stopping for provisions.  Their boat was gorgeous, three levels, with a roomy lounge and kitchen, two large cabins downstairs, a bunk room, 2 baths and even a washer and dryer!  All beautifully fitted with wood trim and fine metal. The bridge at the top was loaded with every technical tool/toy one could want, and surrounded with a clear vinyl cover that zippered off if wanted.  We set off for MacKay Island, about a 1 1/2 hour trip.  This was the marina view from the front of the boat as we left:

I thanked Jon for ordering the perfect weather and asked if he had had to put in for it far in advance?  He said, "Oh, yes.  There's always a queue!"  It was a glorious day.

Below: We approached Crocodile Island on our way.

Jon and Susie happy to be out on the water!

Invited guest Aunt Wendy, also happy to be on the boat.

The Low Isles.  Pretty low!

Croc's head--big.  Boat nearing us--looks small!

I have learned a little about photography through my mistakes, and now try to include items for scale.  It sure helps me when I am trying to get a good and interesting shot, even with my little point and shoot camera!

Above: The rainforest covers the Croc too.

The sea was glassy and calm--perfect for motoring.

But look at our wake--you could have surfed it!  Susie said watching the wake is like gazing into a fire: mesmerizing.  Jon says standing here near the tender and right over the engine room gives you such a feeling for the speed of the boat.  It's a powerful thing!

Our goal: MacKay Islands region.  This was a small spit of sand on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.  No vegetation, but lots of seabirds, driftwood, coral remnants, and shells.   We anchored off the island--which was quite a process, the boat having just been fit with a new anchor mechanism.  It took a good 15 minutes for solid anchoring to hold.  Lunch was next--yum--and then I presented them with their quilt (see next post!).

We got in our "bathers" and stinger suits and the tender was lowered.  The captain liked to drive fast and we circled the island's far end, spotting a few turtles on the way and cruising over the gorgeous warm sea.  I put my hand in and declared I had finally touched the Coral Sea.  Once landed and tied up to a piece of buried driftwood, we got a few snorkeling pointers from Jon and Susie and set off to explore the amazing coral reef.  I had some trouble with the mask fogging up a lot but otherwise enjoyed the wide variety of coral, fish, and huge clam shells.  My near-sightedness made Jon promise me a prescription mask for "next time", but it was quite shallow and there was plenty to see.  Susie was left without flippers so Jon pulled her along as we explored for about an hour and a half.  It was wonderful, never to be forgotten experience.

Here is the bedraggled but happy crew.  The dark areas in the background are the reef.  A very nice Australian lady took our picture.  She and her kids were spending time on the island.  They lived on their boat had been anchored offshore for several weeks.  She said she homeschooled her kids and had just sent off their final packets so they were on holiday.

The gorgeous boat--all 58 feet of her!  We climbed back aboard and headed back to the Low Isles to look for more turtles.  Even though it was mid afternoon, the sea remained calm and there was little wind. As we approached and circled the Isles, we noticed all the public moorings were taken, so we used a private mooring with permission, closer to the smaller of the Low Isles.  

This is a manned lighthouse and the isles are protected due to being the nesting site of a type of pigeon.  We saw flock after flock of them flying in, low over the water.  They were just about impossible to photograph and all my shots were wasted.  Susie threw out some bread, looking for three bat rays that usually greet them at this site, but we had a visitor of a different kind: a Giant Trevally.  This one was about 3' long.

He wasn't really interested in the bread but swam back and forth under the boat while Jon was getting the tender in the water and we were getting in it.  Unfortunately, due to the angle of the lowering sun it was very difficult to see into the water and we abandoned plans to snorkel here as well, and set off for home.

It was sailing night and there were lots of boats out on the gorgeous calm night.  Several outrigger crews were practicing as we motored into the marina entrance, and we watched the sun go down behind the clouds covering the rainforest's mountain range.

This one little pink cloud floated above as we made our way to the marina.  Later, after the boat was all hosed off and we were walking up from the boat in the dusk, we heard a hiss and then a bark--Susie said it was a bat--but we saw nothing.  A fingernail moon with a full circle of light around it was rising in the sky.  It simply could not have been a more perfect Great Barrier Reef experience.  I will treasure it forever and thank Jon and Susie for the fantastic opportunity.  It was the one thing I really wanted to do and the day was an absolute "10".  Maybe even an "11"!  Another stop at the market and family dinner with more family arrivals finished out the evening with lots of laughter and fun.


Banaghaisge said...

Blimey Charlie - what a time you had!!!!!
It all looks so wonderful, and you are right - the quilt colours are the colours of the sea up there!
Thank you so much for the travelogue. And you sound like you are getting over your cold.

Stephanie D. said...

Wow, what memories you have made! And such glorious scenery!